The emotional connection between branding and brand messaging

There’s a wise saying: “In a battle between logic and emotion, emotion wins every time.”

That’s because humans are emotional creatures who cannot take emotion completely out of decision-making. Despite the old adage, nothing is ever “strictly business.”

Science has proven the point. For example, research published in the Annual Review of Psychology found that “emotions constitute powerful and predictable drivers of decision making. Across different types of decisions, important regularities appear in the underlying mechanisms through which emotions influence judgment and choice. Thus, emotion effects are neither random nor epiphenomenal.”

That’s science-speak for “all human decisions involve at least some level of emotion.” The notion of “going with your gut” often is used to name the process of tapping into emotions to make decisions. Marketers might call it emotional branding.

These facts invite marketers to move brand messaging beyond appealing to logic and reason and instead outline the features and benefits that appeal to the audiences’ emotions.

A study by the Harvard Business Review recently uncovered “emotional motivators,” which it described as the desire to:

• Stand out from the crowd.

• Have confidence in the future.

• Enjoy a sense of well-being.

• Feel a sense of freedom.

• Feel a sense of thrill.

• Feel a sense of belonging.

• Protect the environment.

• Be the person I want to be.

• Feel secure.

• Succeed in life.

The operative word in that list is “feel.” How will using your brand make customers feel?

Gut check: Ask yourself what’s more compelling in your decision process: The promise of maximizing uptime or the prospect of experiencing the feeling that comes with achieving your goals? The difference is subtle but important.

Steps to emotional branding

Appealing to emotions can be tricky. We’re used to taking a features and benefits approach to marketing. Follow these steps as you try to get the hang of it.

  • Learn what’s most important to your audience and why. Discover what your audience wants to accomplish.
  • Identify what your brand can do for them. Which of the needs identified in the first step can your brand satisfy for your audience? These things are probably practical and very functional. This is where marketing traditionally starts.
  • Discover how delivering the benefit connects with an emotion. This is the magic moment. For example, if you’re selling power tools to DIYers, they obviously want tools that make it easy to get things done.

Their emotions, however, could include a fear of the expense and embarrassment that comes from project failure. Their desired emotion is the feeling they’ll get when completing a project that looks incredible and performs even better. That’s pride, a sense of accomplishment, the satisfaction of getting things done for less than paying someone else to do it and maybe a feeling of superiority.

Your goal is to communicate that your brand will minimize the fear of failure and maximize the prospect of feeling the giddy glow of personal accomplishment. Those are your emotional hooks.

  • Lead with emotion. If you’re going to appeal to emotions, commit! Don’t be wishy-washy. Lead with the emotional benefit and back it up with secondary points about practical and functional features and benefits that give credibility to your promised emotional payoff.
  • Stay focused. There might be several emotional benefits to using a product. Don’t try to hit them all. Pick out the most important emotional hook and hammer it home.